Beyond links: Lessons learned from a failed SEO link building PR campaign
Content Marketing

Beyond links: Lessons learned from a failed SEO link building PR campaign

4th September 2019

For most, PR has become the most legitimate link building tactic for many global brands. After years of working in a digital marketing agency and collaborating with PR agencies on digital marketing and SEO campaigns, I can wholeheartedly agree that PR is the number one strategy when conducting SEO link building.

In my last post about the 3 Link Building Tactics you can use to Gain Large Volumes of Legitimate Links for your Website, I discussed how PR should run with full consideration of their link building capabilities and subsequent SEO benefit..

However building links from PR campaigns, without SEOs involved, won’t actually drive any SEO benefit.

In this post I will talk about an example PR campaign which built hundreds of links from respectable regional and national press publications, as well as sports and charity organisation via a managed link building angle, but failed to consider some SEO basics, leading to campaign making no difference on search engine rankings and ultimately no overall ROI..

With PR becoming more and more popular as a link building tactic I believe it is as useful, if not more, to share what doesn’t work than what does – in the hope that I may save some of you from wasting time and money.

Building links to a campaign destination page

For the purpose of link building it is crucial to create a good quality landing page. The page should explain the purpose of the campaign, share assets which can be used and re-purposed by journalists and include important calls to action – so that it provides significant enough benefit to the journalists making it worth linking to.

One of my clients ended up creating a page just like this. They campaign landing page was a hub for a really good competition, hosted a voting mechanism, leader board and announced the winners. Competition was well promoted by a PR agency and actually generated a good volume of backlinks.

The screenshot from ahrefs tool below shows an actual volume of backlinks built through PR activity to the landing page. The page title and URL has been renamed for the purpose of anonymity for this blog:

The next screenshot from ahrefs shows that link building has been happening since February 2019 and gained momentum through the end of July and throughout August:

Moz Link Research tool shows a matching trend in Page Authority for the landing page:


Lack of visible SEO value from a PR link building campaign

Despite the overwhelming amount of new backlinks build to the landing page from trusted websites I couldn’t see any increase in other metrics such as Domain Authority, organic traffic, keyword rankings or conversions.

If anything, organic traffic has actually decreased, according to Google Analytics:


Having looked at the landing page, it was not difficult to see what went wrong…he landing pages didn’t have any internal links back to the main website.

The chances are that if you are in the process of creating a PR campaign for linking building and developing a landing page, you actually have other pages you wish to promote in search engine results, and not just this landing page.

Importance of internal link structure for SEO

An important issue I’d like to cover here is internal link structure.

If you manage to get multiple websites linking back to your landing page, you may presume it would help your SEO, and I cant tell you that many SEOs have done great work also assume the same thing.

We know that more high quality links is a good thing, that more link diversity is a good thing, soIts is only natural to think that if you can capture more links and link diversity via a PR campaign, even to a landing page, it would amplify your ranking signals. But actually, the opposite can be true.

If you are creating standalone landing pages which aren’t internally linked or integrated with the rest of your website navigation, you are creating a barrier for the full link equity, user and site usage data signals, as well as any potential social signals that could pass to your websites “money” pages.

If you are building links, driving equity and ranking signals to a page that cannot distribute this benefit to the rest of your website you are making a very costly mistake.

Final thought

I strongly recommend that if you use PR as a link building tactic, and have no choice but to create landing pages for these campaigns, simply pay attention to your internal link structure to ensure that all of the ranking signals flow through your main domain and r core business pages to build their equity and strength.

It is important to recognise that PR specialists and SEOs work differently and often will have different goals and KPIs. Therefore, if you are using PR as a main tool for link building, you need to find a way to make these two specialists align themselves. If you can do this you will have your winning formula.


Written By
Polly Pospelova is a passionate online marketing professional who thrives on delivering unique value-driven search solutions. As well as managing Delete agency’s natural and paid search teams, Polly works closely with both technical developers and UX specialists to maximise customer experience, customer engagement and conversions.
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